First let’s start with a definition. In Minnesota, Criminal Vehicular Operation is the charge brought against any individual, whether intoxicated or not, who drives a vehicle in a criminally negligent manner resulting in the unintentional bodily harm of another person. This offense can be charged to a driver operating an automobile illegally which involves reckless or unsafe driving, speeding, gross negligence, or driving under the influence of alcohol or an illegal substance. The victim of the Criminal Vehicular Operation can be a passenger within the same vehicle as the offending driver, a pedestrian, or can be a person in the vehicle which is hit in the accident. Neither malice nor intent to cause bodily harm is required for a person to be charged with Criminal Vehicular Operation.
Below is a case study or fact scenario of a Criminal Vehicle Operation Case resulting in death.
Man Faces DWI Criminal Vehicular Operation/Homicide in Vehicle Rollover Crash
A 30-year-old man in Florida faces a DWI Criminal Vehicular Homicide or Vehicular Homicide charge for the death of one of his rear-seat passengers and the injuries sustained by three other passengers after the SUV he was driving jumped the median of US Highway 98 and CR 630 A on State Road 25, and rolled over several times.
After the crash, the driver and another male passenger fled the scene into the woods to evade the scene and to avoid arrest, while the 1996 GMC Jimmy SUV was engulfed in flames. One of the four passengers who suffered severe injuries, and is now in critical condition, was pulled from the SUV by another passenger before it caught on fire. Another passenger died as a result of the accident.
Air support units and K-9 teams from the Sheriff’s Office were called in to search the area. The deputies found the driver hiding behind a shed at a residence along U.S. 98. He denied being in a car crash but the two passengers confirmed that he was the one driving the vehicle. The passenger who fled along with the driver has not been found.
The driver is facing DWI manslaughter charges including leaving the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injury, leaving the scene of a crash involving death, and operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license.
Sentencing for Criminal Vehicular/Homicide Charges
The court considers several factors when sentencing an individual for a Criminal Vehicular Operation/Homicide offense, and one factor is the previous record of the accused driver, including any previous DWI and any misdemeanor or felony charges. There also exists mandatory sentencing guidelines which includes prison for cases resulting in death. Obviously, included among other issues to be considered at sentencing are whether the driver’s license was suspended or revoked at the time and whether the driver was on parole or probation. Individuals found to be under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance at the time of the accident often have the most severe sentences. In Minnesota the typical penalty will weigh all of these factors and balance them against the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines where applicable. Clearly, the penalty can be significantly higher for an individual with a prior criminal record including multiple DWI violations.
Authorities are Biased Against Drunk Drivers
If alcohol or an illegal substance is involved in the accident, a prosecutor may charge a driver with Criminal Vehicular Operation/Homicide under the influence even when the accused is not actually at fault, or even if the accident was inevitable regardless of the driver’s capacity to drive. Police officers generally jump to the conclusion that the intoxicated driver was at fault. Vehicular homicide or manslaughter is not a part of the murder statute but a part of the Minnesota criminal vehicular statute. It is, however, equal to some parts of the murder statute in gravity.
Defenses for a Vehicular Manslaughter Charge
There are several ways to defend the accused from a Criminal Vehicular Operation/Homicide charge, and the success of the defense depends on the skill of the criminal defense attorney handling the case. The defenses for a Criminal Vehicular Operation charge include but are not limited to; lack of negligence defense, factual innocence defense, insufficient evidence, and other defenses depending on the details of the case. The legal assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial in this type of case in hopes of avoiding a conviction/ lengthy jail time.
Getting a Minnesota Vehicular Manslaughter Defense Attorney
A Criminal Vehicular Operation of any level is a very serious charge in Minnesota and in most states and carries potentially severe penalties. This means that the accused needs to get the legal assistance of a competent attorney to handle this type of case.
Douglas T. Kans is a Minnesota criminal defense attorney who has been defending clients with DWI and other criminal charges in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and throughout Minnesota for over 17 years. If you or any of your family members has been charged with criminal vehicular operation, DWI or any other crime, don’t take any chances and don’t waste time.